Ready or not, smartphones have officially entered the third dimension with the EVO 3D, the first handset in the U.S. with a glasses-free 3D screen. However, Sprint’s $199 follow-up to the hugely successful EVO 4G isn’t just about adding an extra dimension to pictures, videos, and movies and games. This sequel packs in a dual-core Snapdragon processor, sharper screen, and smarter HTC Sense software in a sleeker design. So does the EVO 3D represent a bold new frontier for superphones or is just a gimmick?
Some smartphones with 4.3-inch screens feel unwieldy or slippery, but the EVO 3D’s nicely textured, ridged pattern feels good in your hand. The sides and top have a soft-touch finish that feels rubberized. While the 6-ounce EVO 3D weighs the same as the EVO 4G, it’s slightly taller and thinner (0.48 vs. 0.5 inches). The HTC Sensation 4G for T-Mobile is lighter and thinner (5.2 ounces and 0.44 inches), but then again the Sensation doesn’t pack two cameras for capturing 3D video. The multicolor aluminum back of that device has a little more flair, but the all-black EVO 3D has a nice understated elegance to it, including a red accent around the dual lenses.
The EVO 3D’s design differs from the EVO 4G in a couple of key ways. First, the bottom-right side of the device has a shutter button for the camera, as well as a switch that lets you toggle between 2D and 3D modes. The right side also houses dedicated volume buttons, which we prefer, and up top you’ll find the easy-to-press power button and headphone jack.
What’s missing? A dedicated HDMI port. You’ll need to spring for a cable (about $39) that attaches to the microUSB port on the left side of the phone. You also don’t get a kickstand, which many EVO 4G fans loved. The front of the EVO 3D has four responsive capacitive buttons beneath the display along with a front-facing camera.
Display and Audio
You might think that having a parallax barrier 3D display (similar to the Nintendo 3DS) negatively impacts 2D image quality, but that’s definitely not the case with the EVO 3D. This phone’s 4.3-inch qHD (960 x 540 pixels) screen delivered a crisp and bright picture both indoors and out. Text looked sharp on websites such as NYTimes.com (pictured), and the display fits more info on the screen at once than 800 x 480-pixel, 4.3-inch phones such as the LG Revolution. The EVO 3D also offered vibrant colors and fine details when we played back 720p videos recorded with EVO 3D’s camcorder, as well as when we watched the Green Lantern trailer in high quality on YouTube.
When we pumped The Bravery’s “Above and Below” through the EVO 3D’s back speaker, it easily filled a small room. When you place the phone on a desk, the sound amplifies even more, though you’ll need to dial down the volume to avoid distortion. The SRS enhancement setting made audio sound less distant, and if you plug in headphones you can tweak the equalizer settings.
Sprint likes to think of the 3D part of EVO 3D as a bonus, but it’s in the phone’s name for a reason. When you play 3D content, the 3D effect on the display automatically kicks in. Is it gimmicky? Kind of. Is it fun? Yes. When we shot 3D photos and pictures with the phone’s dual-lens camera and then showed them off to friends and family, most of them were pleasantly surprised to see a phone do 3D without glasses.
While there’s definitely a narrow sweet spot for getting the best effect, it was nice to see a shot of flowers pop. We could definitely see some depth to the image. However, if you tilt the phone from side to side, you get an effect not unlike those old baseball cards that showed two different pictures depending on how you held it.
To get your 3D movie fix, Sprint pre-loads the EVO 3D with a copy of The Green Hornet 3D, stored on the phone’s memory card. Unfortunately, you have to sign up for an HTC Watch account (HTC’s video store) in order to access the content. Worse, the EVO 3D couldn’t download the necessary license that would allow us to enjoy the movie, although Sprint says that our issue was likely related to our device having a demo account. The bundled Blockbuster on Demand app provides 3D titles as well, but we didn’t see a special section for these titles. A search for 3D delivered no results, either.
We had better luck with the bundled demo of the Ultimate Spider-Man: Total Mayhem 3Dgame. The 3D effect is adjustable right on the playing screen, and we found slinging webs at the bad guys to be immersive without being distracting. The EVO 3D also has a Gameloft Storefront on board for purchasing additional 2D and 3D games (including GT Racing Motor Academy). Titles cost $4.99.
For captured 3D video, you can share it on YouTube, which has an increasing selection of 3D trailers and user-generated 3D content. When we tried to play a video on an HP Envy 17 3D, it displayed a split-screen version of our EVO 3D’s footage. However, the notebook did accurately display 3D photos, which really popped when we donned the 3D glasses. A picture of a young girl playing on a tire swing really came out in the foreground. Those who own 3D TVs can output user-generated 3D video–but not premium content–to their set via an optional HDMI cable.
Overall, the EVO 3D does a pretty good job with 3D photos and homemade videos, and the gaming experience is better than we expected.